Giardia is a protozoan intestinal parasite that may infect birds and mammals including humans. It is worldwide in distribution and is very prevalent in this area. Transmission occurs by a fecal-oral route either directly or indirectly via contaminated food or water sources. Streams, ponds and well water frequently serve as sources of infection. Wild and domestic animals as well as humans may serve as reservoirs. Cross-infection has been shown to occur between animals and humans.
Dogs and cats may be infected without showing symptoms. Clinical signs when present include weight loss and chronic diarrhea, which can be continuous or intermittent. Feces are usually soft and may contain mucus. Giardiasis must be differentiated from the many causes of diarrhea and diagnosis requires laboratory analysis of a fresh fecal sample. Giardia cysts are shed in feces intermittently and therefore repeated fecal examinations may be necessary to reveal the organism.
Treatment involves oral medication not always effective at eliminating this hardy and resistant parasite. Successful treatment does require avoidance or elimination of sources of re-infection.
Prevention involves disposal of feces from the immediate environment and preventing pets from drinking potential contaminated water sources.
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